Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands … Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. Psalm 112.1. 6-8.
The previous psalm to the one from which this morning’s verses are taken ends with that famous text: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111.10); and this psalm picks up where that one leaves off. But what is “fear of the Lord”?
It is notable that the parallel to “the fear of the Lord” in Psalm 111.10 is “all who follow his precepts” — “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding” — and that the parallel here to “the man who fears the Lord” is “who finds great delight in his commands”. Clearly, fear of the Lord is closely linked to doing the Lord’s will and walking in his way; not because the Lord is seen as a punisher of those who do otherwise but because, by his mighty acts of deliverance and the wonder of his love and mercy towards his people, the Lord has shown himself worthy of their total obedience and praise. In other words, “fear” in relation to God is awe and reverence rather than the dread of his wrath or punishment. Thus Jacob can call God, “the Fear of Isaac” (Genesis 31.42, 53), not because his father Isaac was terrified of God but because Isaac held God in awe and reverence all his days. Indeed, when God appeared to Isaac he told Isaac not to be scared of him: “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you” (Genesis 26.24).
“Do not be afraid” … “Fear not.” Someone has said that that phrase — spoken always by the Lord himself or by his angels — occurs 366 times in the Bible, once for every day of the year including leap years! Whether that is true or not, I don’t know; but it is certainly true that the Lord doesn’t want me to be scared of him. He does, however, want me to revere him and hold him in awe, because he knows that when I do that, I will be set free from all lesser fears. The old hymn “Through all the changing scenes of life” has the verse:
Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
have nothing else to fear;
make you His service your delight,
He’ll make your wants His care.
And those lines are really a summary of this morning’s verses from Psalm 112. When I fear God in the sense of holding him in awe because of how supremely great and good he is, I will not fear anything else in the sense of being scared of what life might throw at me. Here, the man who fears God will not fear bad news … not that bad news might not come but that, safe and secure in the love of God, he will be able to handle the bad news and get through the difficulties to which it relates.
John Newton’s testimony, as recorded in “Amazing grace” was: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” I want that to become my testimony too.
Lord Jesus, teach me, please, to “fear” you more. Fill me with such awe and reverence at your majesty that all my other fears depart and I become someone who, like the man in the psalm, “cannot be shaken.” Amen.